I am traveling with a film crew from Digital Development Communications to create videos of Helen Keller International’s programs in Bangladesh. Our journey has taken us to the southern area of Barisal division, in the sub-district of Barguna. We are working with local partners to implement our Homestead Food Production programs and to establish or re-establish livelihoods destroyed during Cyclone Sidr in 2007.
Helen Keller International’s model includes setting up a Village Model Farm which supplies the individual household gardens with seeds, seedlings, and chicks along with training to create year-round gardens and education to teach them about proper nutrition.
The gardens are bursting right now with the winter harvest. There are the familiar vegetables, like eggplant and okra, but also long beans, short beans, red arum, gourds of all colors and shapes, including snake gourd, ash gourd — which can keep for six months and still be edible – bitter gourd, sweet gourd and bath sponge – which can be eaten or dried and used as a loofah in the shower. (I tried this one morning but realized it needed some more time to dry out.) My favorite is Kang Kong, a leafy green that tastes somewhere between mustard greens and spinach but is not as bitter as the former nor as rich as the latter. With some chiles and onions, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s so nutritious it makes you feel capable of climbing the Empire State Building!
We choose what we want to eat based on what we see in the gardens. Lunch today was Kang Kong, eggplant and sweet gourd (along with chapati.) I’m looking forward to dinner!